After being shut out 3-0 on Tuesday night in Baltimore, the Orioles need a win at home tonight versus the Washington Nationals to split this two-game interleague series. And they turn to their hottest starting pitcher to get it done.
The Orioles have won four consecutive starts made by right-hander Tyler Wells (4-4, 3.62 ERA) and he has recorded three quality starts in that span, including in his last two games. Over this four-start stretch, Wells is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA, allowing six runs and 14 hits in 22 innings. He has thrown 88, 62, 84 and 86 pitches in those games, allowing a batting average against of .180 and a .597 OPS.
In his most recent start, Wells limited Toronto to one run and five hits over six innings last Thursday afternoon at Rogers Centre, and he won his battle with Toronto right-hander Kevin Gausman. The Orioles scored six runs in the third inning that afternoon to provide him an early 7-0 lead, and Wells told us after that game how he approached having such a big lead to work with.
“Honestly, whenever you get a big lead like that it’s easy to kind of say you can sit back, relax and breathe,” he said in Toronto. “The way that I try to trick myself into thinking, I try to make sure that I am more intense, more focused than I was before. It’s great to have big innings, and the guys absolutely crushed out there today, but it’s also just as important to have a shutdown inning. Trying to stay intense with my focus and getting into that next inning and being able to shut it down is also important.”
He did that, for sure, producing his fourth career quality start. At the end of that game the Orioles had just three quality starts in their previous 22 games, and Wells had been the pitcher for all three.
Manager Brandon Hyde marveled at how efficient Wells has been lately, getting deep into games even as the club works to hold his pitch count and season innings totals down a bit.
“That shows you how efficient he’s been in that, he reached it (pitch count) again today,” Hyde said after that game. “I didn’t know how far he was going to go. Obviously, we were a little strapped in the bullpen today, so first couple innings he threw quite a few pitches. But he throws all four pitches in the zone. Threw some really good right-on-right changeups today, with a good slider and mid-90s fastball. And he’s not afraid to force contact. His strikeouts are down because he is so much in the strike zone and challenges hitters. He’s giving us a chance every time out lately, and that’s a really, really good lineup that he threw six innings against.”
Wells, 27, has already exceeded his 2021 innings total when he pitched 57 innings in 44 relief outings. This year he is at 59 2/3 through 13 starts. Wells has allowed two earned runs or fewer nine times. Because of those numbers, the Orioles might limit him somewhat in tonight's outing.
In five home starts this season, he is 1-0 with a 2.66 ERA and 0.930 WHIP. He has allowed three home runs in 23 2/3 innings at Oriole Park.
Struggling lefty Patrick Corbin (3-9, 6.59 ERA) will make his 15th start for Washington. On the year, he has allowed 97 hits in 69 2/3 innings with 27 walks and 57 strikeouts. He has a WHIP of 1.780 while allowing 12.5 hits per nine with a 3.5 walk rate and 7.4 strikeout rate.
It is certainly a falloff in performance for a pitcher who finished fifth for the National League Cy Young Award while with Arizona in 2018 and 11th in 2019 in his first year with the Nationals. But his ERA was 4.66 in 2020, his second year in Washington, and it was 5.82 last year and is higher yet this season.
The Nationals are 3-11 in his starts but are 3-2 in the last five after losing all nine of his starts to begin the year. Corbin has a 5.28 ERA in three June starts, allowing nine runs over 15 1/3 innings, yielding a .338 batting average and .956 OPS.
Last season, the Orioles went 3-3 against the Nationals. They were swept in three games at Nationals Park from May 21-23 before sweeping Washington in three games at Oriole Park from July 23-25. The Birds have gone 48-39 against the Nats since the team moved to Washington in 2005, including 26-18 against them at Oriole Park. This year, Baltimore has gone 4-4 in interleague play, and the team owns an all-time record of 219-252 against National League opponents in the regular season.
Adley Rutschman is batting .306/.359/.556 (11-for-36) with six doubles, one home run, six runs scored, four RBIs and three walks over his last 10 games, hitting safely in seven of them and reaching base in all but one. He has raised his season batting average from .143 entering play on June 10 to .207 entering play today (+.064). Nine of his first 19 big league hits have gone for extra bases (seven doubles, a triple and one home run).